Sir William Orpen RA RI RHA

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Sir William Orpen RA RI RHA

Sir William Orpen (1878-1931) was a successful Dublin born painter who was known for both his portraits and his role as an official war artist. Having natural talent saw him obtaining a place at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art at an early age, where he was presented with several awards including the British Isles gold medal for life drawing. From there he went on to study at the Slade School of Art under Henry Tonks before joining the New English Art Club, the influence of which can be seen in his work.
Orpen felt a deep sense of responsibility to cover the events he witnessed during World War I and was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) for the work he produced while touring the Western Front. He was made the official portrait artist at the Paris Peace Conference in Versailles, producing The Signing of the Peace in the Hall of Mirrors which is currently held in the Imperial War Museum in London. The artist continued to produce portraits after the war, gaining several key commissions, including painting the Prince of Wales (1923) and British wartime Prime Minister David Lloyd- George (1926).
He exhibited regularly with the Royal Academy, being elected a member in 1919, and also taught at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and the Chelsea Art School, a private teaching studio which he ran with friend and fellow artist Augustus John.
Whilst after his death Orpen’s work took a backseat due to several published criticisms, including that of his aforementioned friend Augustus John, in 1981 a biography by Bruce Arnold revived interest in the artist and in 2005 a major retrospective of his work was held at the Imperial War Museum.

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